Even If It Were A Dog, It Certainly Wouldn’t Be Shaggy

With several stories out there in the hands of editors waiting for acceptance or rejection (including one I spent six years writing) I find that my biggest problem isn’t anxiety, it’s figuring out how to write “and then I woke up” (or similar) a third of the way through the story I’m working on now without my readers thinking everything so far was just a dream. I’m horrified that the exact right phrase I need is a goddamn cliché. It’s things like this that drive writers to drink. That, and spending six years trying to get a ten page story just right.


For three years I published and co-edited (as fiction editor) an online journal of literature. Lately I’ve been feeling uninvolved in the literary community, and I’m searching for ways to connect. I’m considering relaunching the journal. In the past we published fiction and poetry. If I did decide to relaunch it, I would publish only fiction. My question is this: would you be interested in reading such a journal? Would you submit to such a journal (on the understanding that I couldn’t pay you)? Would you be willing to post about such a journal on your blog? If yes to any of these, would you be willing to donate money (I’m thinking about micro-donations, a dollar here or there), with the understanding that any donations would go exclusively to the hosting bill? Why (or why not—this last question being an addendum to any and all of the above)? Please leave… Continue Reading

Beat Your Fists Through the Static and the Noise

Cliff Burns made a name for himself by publicly venting his spleen after years of rejection letters. A former editor recently mused at The Guardian about both the writing and receiving of rejection letters, because apparently there will soon be an entire book of them. There’s even a quite clever blog devoted to literary rejection. It seems that writers and publishers like nothing better than to discuss their rejection experiences in the harsh halogen glare that is the public eye. Allow me, then, to add my voice to theirs; I got another rejection letter today (well, rejection email, I guess, since I asked to be informed that way, to save on stamps). I had sent my story to a newish publication, not entirely certain it was right for them, but hoping that they would accept it anyway—after all, they might still be struggling to define their vision. They did not… Continue Reading

First Person Narrative and the Problem of Memory

Often many of the most important choices a writer can make about a work of fiction are unconscious ones; the decision to use first or third person narration can seem more like intuition than anything else. There are times when I agonize over it, particularly when I’m heavily invested in the raw material (if I’m writing in the semi-autobiographical mode, for example). It’s not enough that it “feel right”; the choices I make also have to work with whatever point I’m trying to make, with whatever themes I’ve (consciously) chosen to include. For A Temporary Life, my novel-in-progress, one of the themes—or maybe it’s more accurate to say “problems”—I’m working with is that of memory. Using the first person form of narration came most naturally, but I’m not satisfied with how most writers present dialogue in first person narratives. Let me give you an example from a book I actually… Continue Reading

Man of Constant Sorrow

Most of the writers I know who are either barely published (like myself) or as yet entirely unpublished live in mortal terror of two possibilities. First, that no-one out there will like their work and their masterpiece will never find the home it deserves, and second, that their work isn’t any good at all and their work will never find a home at all. I alternate between one fear and the other with occasional confident bursts that border on arrogance. As I see things at the moment, there are two options open. We can persevere, if only slowly like myself, and continue to send our typescripts* to journals and agents and publishers. The other option is to self-publish. I respect this option, but rarely will I support it with my dollars. It’s not that I believe there is no such thing as a good self-published book, or that there are… Continue Reading

On Writing

I’m a writer. People know this about me, though I haven’t published very much, and nothing outside of this blog for a while now. It’s not entirely for lack of trying, although that is certainly part of it. The reason I’m not trying to get published right now is because I have, for the time being, given up on short fiction and am trying my hand at a novel. After two years of work, I’m on chapter three. From that statement you can learn that I’ve successfully passed the major “first chapter” hurdle, and that my biggest problem is maintaining momentum. Thank God I’ve only planned on a total of ten chapters. Even when my momentum is at its best I work quite slowly. I don’t bring this up because I want congratulations or criticism. I bring this up because I want to start posting about the process, about the… Continue Reading